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ESL forum > Grammar and Linguistics > A Discussion For You    

A Discussion For You

New Zealand

A Discussion For You
I recently made a comment about American being different from English - and how I spoke Kiwi which was a whole other language. 
I also made a comment about learning Spanish in Chile and how it should be called Chilian rather than Spanish because it is so different somedays!
Neither comment was meant to offend anyone.  Actually I don�t know what is so offensive about either observation - the offensive bit completely alludes me!  But it does create an intereting conversation so:
Are their different languages within English?  for example American, Kiwi, Australian, Canadian etc.
I believe that each country has taken ownership over its language.
For Example:  A common New Zealand sentence that most New Zealanders would understand:
"Well bugger me, who would have thought kina was kai.  Blimmin gross if ya ask me."
Can anyone other than a New Zealander translate this sentence?  It�s pure kiwi!
to those who are easily offended by the very idea that american isn�t the same as british english - put your comments here - not in my private message box please.  I am more than happy to have this discussion in the open!

25 Nov 2008      


Hi Vickii
Interesting discussion.
In the past, linguists talked about a dominant language (such as English) and its dialects (such as American, Australian, etc). The same applies to Spanish and Chilean, for that matter.
However, that has changed. Nowadays, nobody refers to those variations as dialects since the word "dialect" seems to imply that it is a lesser version of the dominant language, as if it were imperfect or corrupted.
Today they are referred to simply as "variations" and of course, they are languages in their own right.

I don�t remember who said this phrase (it was a social linguist, for sure but I can�t recall the name) but he said something very interesting.
He said that the "dominant" language is a dialect with an army.  Meaning that from the linguistic point of view, there�s no reason why the dominant language should be dominant, and if that language was imposed over other regional languages it was just because it had a better stronger army. Interesting, isn�t it?

Finally, I don�t agree with those who say that American English is not English.  Linguistics should be descriptive not prescriptive, don�t you think?

25 Nov 2008     


I think there are some regional expressions one might not understand in different languages. But I guess the core language is the same. Sometimes I don�t understand some expressions that are used in the provinces in Argentina, but I don�t dare say that�s not Spanish. Perhaps saying that American is not English is a bit awkward, even saying Chilian is not Spanish. There are differences, a comparative work can be done, but the mother language is the same.  

25 Nov 2008     

New Zealand

If you look at the base of English it is Anglosaxen, Latin and Greek (plus assorted other riffraff - no offense frenchie)
The basis of Spanish is Latin - therefore English and spanish are also the same???

25 Nov 2008     

New Zealand

It is just that humans have always been evolving our languages.  different dialects have been taken from one small isolated community and then spread to other communites.  Surely English (and spanish) have many varieties within them.  If someone says english surely it is a given they mena british english - if you were talking about a different variety of english you would say american english or kiwi english etc.  I mean england is where english comes from.

The same applies for spanish - surely you would have to consider that what is spoken in Spain is the original form and what is spoken in other countries is there own version - hence Chilian spanish (or simply Chilian) or Argentinian Spanish (Argentinian). I don�t see that this is a bad thing - in actual fact I beleive that the way a country shapes its language is a reflection of its culture. 
In NZ we use a lot of Maori words within our everyday discussion - the english speakers have just added the maori words to their english vocabulary - forming Kiwi.  Kai = food in maori but is used by english speakers within an english sentence.  What is wrong with this?  It is a true reflection of a dynamic culture that has developed from the interaction between many people from many backgrounds - i think it is fantastic

25 Nov 2008     

United States

Interesting subject.
Most universities and many European countries differentiate
between British English and American English. But it�s still English all the same.

There is no doubt that Americans speak English.
The basis for Australian, New Zealand, Canadian, and American is
British English. The subject in school is still called English.

Slang is one thing - which derives from the society where people live.
Kiwi being a very Australian thing would  surely be a part of the local dialect and slang.

The few spelling differences (tire/tyre)
and different  accents don�t make it a different language.
Just think of all the different dialects there are within each country!
But first and foremost - the language is English.
Thank goodness Brits in Liverpool. London and Manchester, the Scots in the Highlands,
The city folks in Edinburgh and the Irish all understand me and I understand them!

I would bet that 90% percent of the words spoken in all these countries are the same.
That�s my 2 cents worth!

25 Nov 2008     

Helen McK

Personally, I�m very glad that not everyone speaks English in exactly the same way.  I find regional differences in accent and expression absolutely fascinating! Check out my worksheet on Hiberno-English (English as it�s spoken in Ireland).

25 Nov 2008     

New Zealand


Kiwi is a bird from New Zealand - Not Australia!!!
Australians are called kangaroos or something...

25 Nov 2008     


I don�t think that the languages are so different... Kiwi from American or British from Canadian... since the grammar rules are all the same basically. The difference is in vocabulary and each country has a slew full (a lot of) stuff that is unique to that area. In Canada we have "Chinook" which is the same thing as a "foehn" or a warm wind. The Aussie say "smoko" for a smoke break... I think that these are things that make English a curious and very unique language...


25 Nov 2008     

alien boy

Well, this is a very interesting subject!
I have been studying a linguistivcs major for my degree & this is one are that really interests me!
No longuage is static - languages either change or they become extinct.
It would probably be more correct to say American English is not the same as English English (or Irish English, Kiwi English, Skippy English or Japanese English/Jenglish, etc.). I feel that rather than a �dominant language� it�s really more a case of �root language� or �dominant root + other roots/influences�.
In many ways Standard American English is more consistent in many of its rules than English English - take �~or� vs �~our� for example! In fact, when the English language was being prescribed the written form of English English had Greek, Latin & French influences on spelling because of prevailing attitudes within academic and social circles. Many forms of American English are actually older than contemporary English, Australian and New Zealand forms. A lot of the differences can be traced back to social differences related to the different times that Australia & New Zealand were settled by English speaking communities.
There really is a lot to this subject for all language groups!
If I get a chance I�ll send you a few book titles & maybe a web link or two in the next few days.

28 Nov 2008